Friday, June 19, 2009

What I'm Reading Now: Liberal Fascism

Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism (link below) came out in January 2008. It was just released in paperback on June 2. I'm cheap and waited for the price to drop and it was a long wait. Many of you have already read it, so this is for those cheap people like me who waited for the right price point (by the way, what is this thing called libraries?).

I'll preface this brief review with a note. My graduate degree is in history with a concentration in German diplomatic and intellectual history. I know more than a little about the history quoted in Liberal Fascism.

For the most part, Goldberg is pretty close to right, although he selects points that support his thesis leaving other points unanswered. For instance, when he deals with racialist views. He rightly condemns leftists that held these views, but ignores how acceptable these views were in the spirit of the times. Many conservatives would have held the same views.

Goldberg didn't mean for Liberal Fascism to be a history treatise. Instead, he wrote a polemic and as such his book is very effective. His clear writing makes you wonder about so much we've been taught about the truth behind socialism and fascism. It makes you wonder how much our father's and grandfather's generations were imbued with a semi-fascist philosophy that is now coming to a head in this generation.

As Goldberg points out, fascism takes many forms depending on where it's found. Italian and German fascism were different, so it stands that an American fascism would be more different still. Good point. However, I think that applying fascism to the far and not-so-far left is no more useful than when the left calls conservatives fascist. (There is that little shiver of delight to throw the label back at them though.)

I think the term "statist" is much more useful than fascism in describing the left. Bear in mind that Communism, fascism, socialism are all statist. All of them hope to use the state to improve mankind's lot. However, where that improvement takes mankind differs very much depending on the "ism" in question.

Using the state to improve society is fraught with dangers that cannot be ignored. Left-wing people think that if they just create one more welfare program, re-distribute wealth just a little more, adopt identity politics more strongly then we can create social justice. We can abolish poverty, crime, war, and every other bad thing. Of course, they define what is bad (e.g., self-defense because it hurts or kills another person, even if that person was the attacker).

The left resents the right for trying to stop them from using the state to improve society. They call conservatives selfish, unjust, unfair, and worse. They believe that the right is simply trying to protect their prerogatives to further "oppress" the people. They want a collective effort and individuals stand in their way. As that thought takes them further down the statist road, they soon look to using the state to force compliance with their dreams.

That way lies the madness of the guillotine and must be stopped. Society is not perfectible and we must respect the individual as a unique human being and not for his/her role as a member of the collective. That's why this book is so important to read.

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